What are OERs?

By Karen Conen on Tue, 1/10/2017
Picture of member, Karen Conen

Karen Conen
SAFARI Montage Content Manager, SAFARI Montage

 “Openly licensed educational resources can increase equity by providing all students, regardless of zip code, access to high-quality learning materials that have the most up-to-date and relevant content.” - John King, U.S. Secretary of Education

Open Educational Resources (OER) allow for fundamental changes in teaching and learning by efficiently providing open access to high quality, cost-efficient educational resources available on the internet. Generally, these resources are specifically licensed to be used and reused in an educational setting. OER Commons says that “Unlike copyrighted resources, OER have been authored or created by an individual or organization that chooses to retain few, if any, ownership rights. In some cases, that means you can download a resource and share it with colleagues and students. In other cases, you may be able to download a resource, edit it in some way, and then re-post it as a remixed work. How do you know your options? OER often have a Creative Commons license or other permission to let you know how the material may be used, reused, adapted, and shared.”

Many districts across the United States are accelerating the transition to digital learning through the use of OERs, which improves student learning by offering a personalized learning environment at tremendous cost savings. In the past, districts were spending a considerable amount of money on rigid, fixed learning materials. Empowering teachers to adapt and tailor OER materials allows them the freedom to construct and implement customized, fluid learning opportunities for students, regardless of budget size. For example, when new elements are added to the periodic table, or a new president takes office, districts can update their learning resources to reflect the latest developments without fear of violating copyright laws. This provides teachers with the flexibility to offer their students dynamic, timely learning materials – a tremendous benefit to going open. But, make no mistake, the conversion to OER calls for a thoughtful evaluation and implementation of resources as the responsibility now lies with the district to ensure selected materials are rigorous and high-quality. Professional development opportunities are critical to the process as teachers need to be properly prepared to use technology effectively and confidently. Are you ready to begin the OER conversation in your district? This resource, from the U.S. Department of Education, is designed for districts that have decided to implement a systematic approach to incorporating openly licensed educational resources into their curriculum by becoming a #GoOpen District.

SAFARI Montage has embraced the OER movement through the curation of outstanding content. Utilizing our stringent criteria, we select curate the very best content available based on its relevance to the K-12 curriculum, its production values, and its correlation to State, Common Core and selected National Standards. Each learning object is thoroughly annotated and includes subject references,  key terms, and correlation to standards, which allows educators and students to easily identify the content that best meets their instructional needs. This content is made available on a yearly basis, typically via a remote update, at no additional cost. Content currently available on the system includes learning objects from the Library of Congress, MIT, NASA, National Park Service, Khan Academy, TED-Ed, Edutopia, National Archives, Project Gutenberg, Teaching Channel and more. A complete list is available here.

Have unanswered questions about OERs? Check out this resource provided by OER Commons for K-12 educators which answers frequently asked questions.

More information about Creative Commons licensing can be found on the SAFARI Montage LORX, where we have uploaded the following resources:

Shared Creations: Making Use of Creative Commons - A PDF handbook that addresses copyright, the different Creative Commons licenses and how to choose between them, how to give credit when using for teachers' digital materials and how to find Creative Commons materials for your class.

Wanna Work Together - This short video from Creative Commons provides a basic explanation of copyright and the value of sharing your creative work through Creative Commons licensing.
Get Creative: Being the Origin and Adventures of the Creative Commons Licensing Project - This video from Creative Commons discusses the history behind the organization and their work. Includes the story of the adaptation of the music of White Stripes by Redd Kross, the concept of copyright and copyright law, the role of creative commons, and what it all means to you as a user and creator of media.